This post is inspired by this one. Really, I have very little time and will to write for that site anymore, and posts like that are the reason why.
EWTN as a new “subculture”? A new “ghetto”? The thing about ghettoes is that you don’t choose to live in one. It is never about choice. Those who aspire to a ghetto are the ones we know have no idea what they are talking about. One of the common themes of this blog is that those who have nostalgia for the “Catholic past” don’t remember it all that well. They remember the deference that some had for the clergy, the supposed “reverence” inspired more by social taboo than anything else, and the remnants of architecture that have not been razed yet in modern times. They forget the bigotry, the witchcraft, the “superstition”, and the cruel cosmos that was at the center of the “old ways”. People like this who are nostalgic for the old subculture merely want a crypto-Protestant evangelical, Republican Party in prayer, Christianity with props that they don’t even understand. I hate to get all “racial” about it, but a bunch of newly minted “middle class white Christians” with vowels on their last names are not going to remake “Christendom”. A few cult-like Catholic communes are not going to save the world.
Which brings me to my next point: someone really needs to write an extensive religious defense of secular reason. Increasingly, I don’t see “secularism” as a four letter word. I don’t think that it should be defended 100%, Richard Dawkins should not be made Pope. But someone needs to point out that what we detest most about secularism is often what is the most Christian. “Relativism” just didn’t come out of some arbitrary wish for us to screw and marry a table leg if we are so inclined. It really came out of a vision of seeing that, within a plurality of views, bloodshed is inevitable unless we tone things down a bit. Also, the rationalist cosmos, and I am the first to admit that modern scientism is far too simplistic, nevertheless is the building block for us having the Internet, microwave ovens, and penicillin. As much as neo-Thomists wish that modern science was the direct product of Aristotelian hylomorphism, it is just as much a product of Cartesian dualism and Kantian apriorism. In this sense, even the most reactionary Western religiosity is a product of secularism, just as Islamic fundamentalism was shaped by modern colonialism, and so on. In truth, the religion that came before it, which for some is a not so distant memory, was essentially different.
On liturgy: I’ve never understood some people’s obsession with the 1962 books. As far as I can tell, the only reason people bring them up so much is because Archbishop Lefebvre decided to use them in his seminary after the future sedevacantists objected to the use of the 1965 books (i.e. the last permutation of the old liturgy prior to the Pauline missal). By 1962, the liturgy had changed quite a bit. But what is notable about 1962 is that it was really the first breach in the wall of the “unchanging liturgy”. A hundred years earlier, Pius IX explicitly refused to add St. Joseph’s name to the Canon of the Mass. In the Catholic clerical consciousness, the Canon was an unchanging text, akin to the Gospels. Whether or not this was the case is irrelevant, that was at least the perception. Once you changed it by adding a good, “conservative” thing, it was only a matter of time before it became optional.
And really, that is all “traditionalism” is: it’s optional. Catholic ceremonial prior to the Liturgical Movement of the early 20th century had as much pastoral weight as a rain dance or an indigenous secret initiation in a cave. It was done to placate the gods, to keep the sun shining every morning, etc. Whether or not we understood it was neither here nor there. Even in modern traditionalism (except for the SSPX, but even they have a distorted view of things) the sacred has “left the building”. What is really sacred is democracy, human rights, property, my rights as a (religious) consumer, and so on. That is the real religion, and we all follow it.
Who is afraid of a “dictatorship of relativism”? Not me. If that is where the World Spirit wants to go, who am I to argue with it? In reality, even the Church will come around, since, I have always argued, it already has. The Church is playing second fiddle at this point, and maybe that is a good thing.